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Canopy Family

September 2015

Featured Bird

Crimson-backed Tanager Canopy Tower David Tipling

Crimson-backed Tanager
Ramphocelus dimidiatus

The Crimson-backed Tanager is one of the many spectacular tanagers in Panama, where it is locally known as sangre de toro or “blood of the bull”.  It is a medium-sized tanager, 18 cm in length.  Richly colored males have a deep, velvety red head and back, bright scarlet underside, flanks and rump, with black wings and tail.  Males have a notable white lower mandible, enlarged at the base.  Females and immatures are a duller red-brown.  Like other tanagers, they feed on fruit, insects and small vertebrates, and visit the platform feeders at the Canopy Lodge, Canopy Camp and Canopy B&B daily.  In Panama, they breed from February to June.  They live in the secondary growth forests, edges and scrub of the lowlands and foothills, and are frequently found in areas of human activity.  They are found in Panama, northern Colombia and Venezuela, and have been introduced to Tahiti.  The Crimson-backed Tanager is a favorite among many of our visitors!

Focus on Plants

Vismia macrophylla Jerry Harrison

Vismia macrophylla

This small tree grows with a straight trunk 4-12 m high along edges of secondary forest woodlands in the lowlands and foothills of Panama.  It is best distinguished by its long leaves of up to 40 cm in length, red below with small dark dots.  When broken, leaves produce a distinctive orange sap.  Inflorescences form at the ends of branches and have greenish-white flowers, blooming from May to October in Panama.  The fruit is a berry, olive-brown to reddish in color, and contains many reddish-brown seeds.  Fruits ripen from mid to end of the rainy season.  Wasps, bees and butterflies visit the flowers to feed on the nectar, and birds and bats eat the fruits.  The Guna Indians in Panama use the sap to cure white skin spots.  This tree is fairly common along Pipeline Road near the Canopy Tower and is abundant in the foothills around the Canopy Lodge.

Vismia macrophylla Jerry Harrison

Photo of the Month

Orange-bellied Trogon Canopy Lodge Rick Brown

A beautiful Orange-bellied Trogon sits quietly in the cloud forests surrounding the Canopy Lodge.  This tranquil moment was captured nicely by Rick Brown during his recent visit to the Canopy Family lodges.  Click on the photo to view a larger image. 

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Recent Sightings and Trip Reports

In the past month we have had great sightings of Sunbittern, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Black-crowned Antpitta, and rarities including Harpy Eagle, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Gray-capped Cuckoo and Solitary Eagle!  Check out more recent sightings and trip reports for the amazing birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies and dragonflies seen around the Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge and the new Canopy Camp Darien!

Harpy Eagle Canopy Tower Panama

"LV" the Harpy Eagle visited the Canopy Tower again on September 5th, almost one year after her last visit.  Read her full story here.

Canopy Tower TripAdvisor

Share Your Experience!

Have you stayed with us lately?  We would love to hear from you! We welcome you to post your comments and experiences on TripAdvisor.  Visit our TripAdvisor pages for the Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge, Canopy Camp and Canopy B&B.  If you haven't visited us yet, check out what others are saying!

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Canopy Tower

Dear friends, 

This month we start to welcome back the migrating birds, and by now we are seeing many North American species such as Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Purple Martin and many species of wood-warblers arriving in Panama on their southward migration!  The raptors have also begun passing through, and we have already had large numbers of Mississippi, Plumbeous and Swallow-tailed kites fly over the Canopy Tower.  Did you know that Panama is one of the top sites in the world for raptor migration?  Last year over 3.2 million raptors migrated through the isthmus.  We are gearing up to start our raptor count at the Canopy Tower on October 1; stay tuned for more information about the season's progress in our next newsletter.  To best experience the incredible raptor migration in Panama, we offer a special tour featuring this natural attraction, Panama's Hawk Migration Spectacular, and there are still spaces available for this tour this year.  Also, keep an eye on our recent sightings to see what is showing up!

I would like to extend a loving congratulations to my son Daniel and his new bride, Maria Fernanda, as they wed on August 29th in Bogota, Colombia.  Welcome Maria Fernanda to the family!

If you are in the Ohio area, meet Carlos Bethancourt and Alexis Sanchez at the American Birding Expo, Oct 2-4 in Columbus, Ohio.  Please stop by our booth at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center and say hello!

Raul Arias de Para

   Best wishes, and I hope to see
   you here in Panama soon,

Raul Arias de Para

Raúl Arias de Para - President/Founder

Canopy Family News

Canopy Family Participates in Great National Day of Reforestation in Panama

On August 29, the Ministry of the Environment organized a nation-wide reforestation event across Panama, part of an initiative called the "Million Hectare Reforestation Project".  Of course, we wanted to help!  Carlos Bethancourt and his son Roberto and Tatiana Perez put their hands and shovels to work in Camino del Cruces National Park near the Canopy Tower, where 800 trees were planted.  In Darién, Nando Quiroz and Dani Marin did the same near the Canopy Camp, helping plant hundreds of trees in this region of the country.  Furthermore, members of the Ministry of the Environment visited the Canopy Camp as a part of the event, to learn more about what we do and see our initiatives for environmental protection in action.  Overall, thousands of trees were planted on this day at 32 sites all over the country.  We are proud to have so much protected land and forest in Panama, and efforts by the government and environmental organizations ensure that important habitat is being maintained, protected and growing, all contributing to Panama’s incredible biodiversity.

Panama Reforestation Canopy FamilyPanama Reforestation Canopy Family

Left, Canopy Tower manager Tatiana Perez and Roberto Bethancourt plant trees in Camino del Cruces National Park, and right, Canopy Camp manager Nando Quiroz joins dozens of participants in Darien during a tree planting event, part of a new nation-wide reforestation initiative in Panama.  


New Butterfly Species for Panama Found at the Canopy Tower

Symmachia calligrapha Jenn Sinasac Panama

Although small, Panama is a place of diversity and discovery.  In August, our resident biologist Jenn Sinasac took a photo of a butterfly inside the dining room windows of the Canopy Tower.  Surely a metalmark and definitely distinctive, she was surprised when she could not find an ID for this species in any resources.  She sent it off to our butterfly expert Kim Garwood, author of The Butterflies of Central America, who also did not recognize it.  As the photo got passed to various Lepidopterans in South America, the butterfly was identified as Symmachia calligrapha, a species of metalmark known only from South America with a specimen collected in Brazil over 100 years ago.  This rare butterfly is a new species for Panama and Central America!  If you are interested in butterflies, check out the upcoming dates for our next butterfly tours at the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge!


Another Great Year at the UK Bird Fair!

Carlos and Evelyn Bethancourt traveled once again to Rutland, England in August to represent the Canopy Family at the biggest bird fair in the world, the British Birdwatching Fair.  Over the course of 3 days, Carlos and Evelyn talked to thousands of birders, wildlife photographers and general nature enthusiasts.  Carlos presented his ever-popular talk on the birds and wildlife of Panama and even managed to get in a little bit of birding during their stay!  Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hello, we hope to see you all in Panama soon.

UK Bird Fair 2015 Canopy Family

Carlos and Evelyn Bethancourt with Tim Appleton, the founder of the British Birdwatching Fair, this year at the Canopy Family booth.

Recent Guests at Our Lodges

Jackie Webber Canopy TowerPatricia & David Davidson Canopy Lodge

One of our most frequent guests, Jackie Webber, above left with Canopy Tower guide Michael Castro, returned back once again to the Canopy Tower in August, her 4th time at the Tower.  She has also visited the Canopy Lodge 3 times and the Canopy Camp last year.  On the right, Raul presents a cake to Patricia & David Davidson of San Antonio, Texas, on their 50th wedding anniversary.  They spent this special occasion at the Canopy Lodge, and have visited both the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp in previous years.  Thank you Jackie, Patricia and David for continuing to visit and enjoy our lodges, we feel honored that you keep coming back!

Canopy Family guestsCanopy Lodge guests

Above left, Raul with Thomas & Susan Covalla, Richard Billings & Cynthia Fox, recent guests from North Carolina, who did what we call our "TLC" (Tower-Lodge-Camp) tour, but personalized it to be a "CTL" tour!  They have also been to the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge in the past.  Above right, Charlie Brookes, Darlene Guckenberger, Canopy Lodge guide Danilo Rodriguez, Nina Rach, Claudia Longmore and Letha Slagle are a happy bunch after finding the elusive Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo near the Canopy Lodge a few days ago!  

Creature Feature

Ornate Helicopter Jenn Sinasac

Ornate Helicopter
Mecistogaster ornata

The Ornate Helicopter is a type of helicopter damsel, a member of the family Pseudostigmatidae, a fascinating family of damselflies exclusively found in the Neotropics.  This group of damselflies gets its name from being reminiscent of a helicopter when they fly.  They beat all four wings independently, and the bold spots on the tips appear to whorl around the insect’s body like the blades of a helicopter.  The Ornate Helicopter is distinguished from the other 5 species in Panama by its rusty yellow body and bold yellow spot on the tip of each wing.  It is among the largest of all damselflies, with a thin, long abdomen of 10 cm in length.  Helicopter damsels breed in phytotelmata—small pools of water in tank bromeliads and tree holes.  They require humid rainforest with sufficient rainfall during the wet season for breeding.  The Ornate Helicopter is also found in drier forests, unlike the other 5 species in Panama that prefer the wettest forests.  It specializes in feeding on spiders, which it plucks from their webs with its long legs.  Adult lifespan is approximately 6 months during the wet season.  Watch for the unique movements of these delicate insects in the rainforests surrounding all of our lodges.

© Canopy Family